I’d always heard that one of the key components of marathon training was the 2 hour long run, and I always figured that at some point I would start doing 2 hour runs regardless of whether I was training for a marathon or not. Running is endurance, as soon as you come off the sprint events on track. Without endurance, you won’t get the times you want. If 2 hour runs are the key to running a good marathon, the route to top level endurance, then they can’t hurt the development of any long distance runner.
This was something that I was planning on developing over the course of this year, as I focus more keenly on strengthening my aerobic base above all. It was not something I was looking at doing so early in the year, so early in my training cycle, so near to a niggle. Perhaps it was not even a good idea. However, sometimes when you run, something just comes over you. It was a lovely day, the first blue sky morning in a while. It was also a little warmer, even if there was a stiff breeze to keep things chilly. I was planning on running the slightly hilly 13ish miler which I can do straight out of my door, but I diverted once to turn it into a 14.5 miler, and then once again to transform it into a 17, taking me to my longest run ever, and over that 2 hour mark.
I’m all about moderation. I believe in sensible training, smart training. There’s no need to do more than you planned, to run faster than you planned. Guts and glory are just words, and they mean very little when it comes to good training. When you train you are looking to cause certain adaptations in your body, and with all the data, all the research which is available to us, we know how hard we have to work. We also know how keeping things easy most of the time is just as important. Occasionally, it’s good to go full on hands-on-knees, head-in-a-bucket, but only really for the psychological effect which it can give you when it comes to race day.
So why did I go 4 miles further than I planned?
First thing: I went out pretty easy. I’m focused on my aerobic base, so there’s no need to make these long runs too testing in terms of pace. Secondly, and more importantly, it just came together. The rolling hills and the bright sunshine had me bouncing. The music shuffling in my ears dragged me out of every slight dip in mood. The work I’ve done on nailing down my cadence seemed to really show through. Finally, the aerobic base that I’ve already built over the last couple of years of consistent training allowed me to feel good and easy through 15 miles, with only the final 2, predictably, turning into a bit of a slog.
In all, it was a run which reminded me why I run. It was a run which reminded me to be grateful for the physical and mental freedom that running affords me. It was a run which reminded me of just how beneficial a bit of sunshine can be, and that in this often grey country, I must always make the most of the bright days which we have.